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Home Blog Liquor Liability: How to keep that $5 shot from costing your club millions.


You have your liquor license. You’ve hired staff, ordered inventory, you’ve accounted for your expenses...or have you?

Liquor Liability Laws

Serving alcohol at your clubhouse comes with significant responsibilities. In the U.S., most states have laws, called Dram Shop Laws or other negligence laws. These laws vary by state and can be confusing. That said, the primary objective of the laws are clear; to hold owners of establishments where alcohol is served liable for the damage or harm which an intoxicated person may cause.

Case after case can be cited of owners being sued (successfully) for property damage, disability, even death caused by a drunk person after being served to excess. These cases often cost millions of dollars. The legal details are vast. If you have specific questions, we encourage you to consult a legal professional.


For The Greater Good

It may sound as if these liquor liability laws are designed specifically to be punitive. They’re actually designed to prevent patrons from becoming drunk, thereby reducing the risk of damage or harm to the public. You need to take steps to serve responsibly and limit your liability.



Server Training

While only a quarter of states currently require server training for alcohol service, it’s an important step to preventing over-service in your establishment.

In some states, providing documentation of training may limit your liability. In addition, staff training may reduce your liquor liability insurance premium.

One widely recognized private program in alcohol training is:

  • TIPS - Training for Intervention Procedures

The program website ( states the class will help participants, “Learn strategies for preventing illegal alcohol sales to underage and/or intoxicated patrons.”


Many states offer training programs (funded by the department of transportation) at no cost. Examples include:

  • ASK- Alcohol Server Knowledge Program
  • L.E.A.D - Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs

Programs like these are all designed to reduce risk of liability, prevent illegal service and provide techniques for servers to professionally handle difficult situations.

Ownership/Management Support

Without management support, even the best trained staff may find it simpler to look the other way. Establish clear policies that support and protect your servers.


Plan Ahead

Create, document and train on a definitive procedure for handling guests who may be intoxicated. Having clear steps outlined remove guesswork and subjectivity for your staff. It also shows them you’ll support them in taking these steps. Then staff doesn’t have to worry if they’re doing the right thing or if they’ll get in trouble.


ID Everyone

Making it policy to get proper identification from everyone, without exception, reduces the chance of accidentally serving a minor.


Designated Driver

Reward your patrons’ responsible planning, too. Offer free non-alcoholic drinks to designated drivers.


Tip Reimbursement

Patrons who’ve been “cut off” or had a drink removed, aren’t likely to be big tippers, if they tip at all. Consider a tip reimbursement policy of 15%-20% for your servers. This shows you appreciate them doing the right thing and care about their livelihood.


Safe Ride Home

Create a plan for offering patrons a safe way home. Ensure every staff member knows what the procedure is - ahead of time!

Taxis, local “care cabs”, even ride-sharing programs like Uber and Lyft are all possibilities. The $20-$30 you spend on a cab ride can save lives and protect the financial well-being of your establishment. Many transportation companies even offer free rides to keep an intoxicated would-be driver off the road.


Liquor Liability Insurance

Regardless of how comprehensive your prevention planning is, there are no guarantees. Having insurance coverage against liquor liability risk is one of the smartest things you can do to protect your business. Unless you have (and want to risk) millions of your own dollars, you need to purchase liquor liability insurance for your clubhouse or golf course. Talk to your broker about coverage options.


David A. Harnois, CCM is a Proud Employee Owner of Affinity Club Underwriters; specializing in commercial and group program business.  David provides insurance solutions for hundreds of clubs throughout the world.  He may be reached at (973) 984-1000 x111 or at



Founded in 2007, Affinity Club Underwriters is a wholesale program insurance provider specializing in the Club, golf and hospitality sector. They offer claims management services, operations and coverage audits, policy & information storage & archaeology, RFP preparation, market analysis and help in developing specific loss control programs.

Affinity is the exclusive provider of the Affinity Club Program for private and semi-private golf and country club venues. Affinity is the only insurance program administrator led by golf industry experts.  


NOTE: This article is not intended as legal advice nor as an exhaustive list of potential liquor liability or legal requirements. It’s provided as general advice using sources we believe to be reliable at the time of publication. If you have specific questions, we recommend you consult the appropriate legal professional.


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